This easy Dirty Rice recipe is full of Cajun flavor and spices with peppers, celery, and onion. It's a savory combination of amazing textures that is great as a side dish but satisfying enough to serve for dinner on its own.

If you love this dish, be sure to also try our One Pot Jambalaya or Skillet Lemon Chicken & Rice next!

A plate of dirty rice made with ground beef.

Dirty rice is one of the original one-pot wonders where you cook the meat and rice in the same pot to save yourself dirtying extra dishes. It's made even easier if you have an Instant Pot, so I'm including instructions for either method below. Whether you serve it as a side dish alongside some roasted chicken, blackened salmon, or fried catfish, or serve it on its own with some cornbread for a simple meal, you can't go wrong with dirty rice for dinner.

If you haven't guessed why it's called dirty rice, the best explanation is the overall brown appearance from the meat, beef broth, and spices used to flavor the rice. Dirty rice is also sometimes called "rice dressing" or "Cajun rice" because of the seasoning and flavors. It's not the most attractive dish, but sprinkling a few chopped green onions on top can add flavor and a pop of color that makes dirty rice more visually appealing.

Dirty rice is popular in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, which is why I'm including it in my American Eats series where I'm sharing some of the most well-known and beloved recipes from each state, one state at a time.

Plates of dirty rice next to an electric pressure cooker and jar of hot sauce.

Why this recipe works

  • Easy dirty rice recipe. While not entirely traditional, this one-pot or Instant Pot dirty rice is simplified for most home cooks using ingredients that are readily available since few of us have access to chicken livers or gizzards, which are typical in more authentic dirty rice recipes.
  • Better than the box. Zatarain's makes a Lousiana-style Cajun dirty rice mix, but the flavors are so much better when dirty rice is made with fresh ingredients like chopped bell peppers and onions. Plus, you can control the amount of spices and salt being added to your dish.

Ingredient Notes

This is a quick overview of some of the important ingredients you'll need for this easy dirty rice recipe. Specific measurements and full recipe instructions are in the printable recipe card below.

  • Cajun "holy trinity". In Cajun and Creole cooking, the trio of diced green bell pepper, onion, and celery provide the backbone of the flavor profile.
  • Protein. We typically just use lean ground beef or ground pork for our dirty rice, but mild Italian sausage or breakfast sausage can also be used. Or if you want a plant-based version, you could use a plant-based ground beef substitute and vegetable broth for a vegetarian version.
  • Spices. Cajun and Italian seasoning add robust flavor and a warmth to this dish that isn't so much spicy as a mild heat you might feel toward the back of your throat. Even our lightweight kids can handle it.
  • Rice. Traditionally dirty rice is made with a long grain white rice, but you could use brown rice instead.
Ingredients for homemade dirty rice.

How to Make Dirty Rice

Each of the steps shown can be done in an Instant Pot or large dutch oven on the stovetop. This is an overview of the process and the full instructions can be found in the recipe card below.

  1. Brown the ground beef. This can be done over medium-high heat on the stovetop or using the Saute function on the Instant Pot. Break up the meat as it cooks so you end up with nicely browned chunks. Transfer the cooked meat to a plate using a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain any excess grease.
  1. Saute the veggies. Add the oil to the pot and let it get hot. Then add the vegetables and saute until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  1. Add remaining ingredients. Once the veggies have softened, return the cooked ground beef to the pot along with the rice, spices, bay leaf, and tabasco sauce. Stir to combine, then pour the beef broth over everything.
  1. Cover and cook. If using the Instant Pot, lock the lid in place and turn the valve to seal. Cook on High pressure for 5 minutes, followed by a 10 minute natural release. If cooking the dirty rice on the stove, first bring it to a boil, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low or medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes until the rice has absorbed the liquid and is tender. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more Cajun seasoning or salt and pepper as needed. Sprinkle the chopped green onions before serving.

Recipe FAQ's

How can I add more spice to this dish?

If you want even more heat, try doubling up on the Cajun seasoning or adding more tabasco sauce to the finished dish.

What is your favorite Cajun seasoning?

You can make your own or purchase Cajun seasoning at the store. We really like the Slap Ya Mama blend. For a milder version, you could also use Tony Chachere's Creole blend.

A plate of dirty rice in front of an Instant Pot.

Recipe Tips

  • Healthier version: If you want to cut back on calories, you can replace the white rice with brown rice and use ground turkeys instead of ground beef or sausage.
  • Stuffed peppers: Dirty rice makes a great filler for hollowed out bell peppers. Just remove the stems and seeds then cut the peppers in half and fill them up with about 1 cup of dirty rice each. Sprinkle some parmesan or mozzarella cheese on top, then bake for 20-30 minutes at 375°F until the peppers have softened for a delicious and healthy main.

Storage and Freezing Instructions

  • How to store: Leftovers will be good kept in an airtight container in the fridge for about 5 days.
  • How to freeze: If you want to double the batch and freeze, let it cool completely, then transfer to freezer-safe containers. We like to do this in individual portions for easy reheating later. Freeze for up to 2 months.
  • How to reheat: Thaw overnight in the fridge, then reheat in the microwave or transfer to an oven-safe dish and cover with foil. Reheat for 10-15 minutes at 350°F until hot before serving. You may need to add a splash of water since rice tends to dry out over time.
A plate of dirty rice in front of an Instant Pot.

More Rice Recipes

We love rice dishes, whether it's as a main or a side. Here are some more rice-centric recipes that your family might enjoy if they like dirty rice.

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.

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Dirty Rice

5 from 3 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Southern
Servings 4 servings
This easy Dirty Rice recipe is full of Cajun flavor and spices with peppers, celery, and onion. It's a savory combination of amazing textures that is great as a side dish but satisfying enough to serve for dinner on its own.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound lean ground beef, ground pork, or ground sausage
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 celery stalks, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
  • 2 scallions, sliced

Instructions
 

  • Turn your instant pot to saute or set a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add in the ground meat and crumble with a wooden spoon. Cook and crumble the meat until it is browned, then transfer the meat to a paper towel-lined plate and drain off any excess grease.
  • Add the oil. When hot, add the onions, pepper, celery, and garlic. Saute the vegetables until the onions are translucent.
  • Turn off the Instant Pot and add the cooked ground beef, rice, broth, Cajun seasoning, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, and tabasco sauce into the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any stuck bits of vegetables or ground beef. Cover and seal with the lid, then set the Instant Pot to cook on High pressure for 5 minutes. If using a dutch oven on the stovetop, bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Allow the pressure to release for ten minutes naturally, then release any remaining pressure and remove the lid. Stir well, then taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more Cajun seasoning or salt and pepper, as needed.
  • Sprinkle the green onions on top before serving.

Notes

  • How to store: Leftovers will be good kept in an airtight container in the fridge for about 5 days.
  • How to freeze: If you want to double the batch and freeze, let it cool completely, then transfer to freezer-safe containers. We like to do this in individual portions for easy reheating later. Freeze for up to 2 months.
  • How to reheat: Thaw overnight in the fridge, then reheat in the microwave or transfer to an oven-safe dish and cover with foil. Reheat for 10-15 minutes at 350°F until hot before serving. You may need to add a splash of water since rice tends to dry out over time.
  • Cajun seasoning: You can make your own, or we like the Slap Yo Mama or Tony Chachere's seasoning blends.
  • Healthier version: If you want to cut back on calories, you can replace the white rice with brown rice and use ground turkeys instead of ground beef or sausage.
  • Stuffed peppers: Dirty rice makes a great filler for hollowed out bell peppers. Just remove the stems and seeds then cut the peppers in half and fill them up with about 1 cup of dirty rice each. Sprinkle some parmesan or mozzarella cheese on top, then bake for 20-30 minutes at 375°F until the peppers have softened for a delicious and healthy main.

Nutrition

Calories: 498kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 564mg | Potassium: 618mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1485IU | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 75mg | Iron: 4mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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